In what Bengals and Hamilton County officials call the completion of the "third quarter" in stadium negotiations, the Bengals have agreed to stay in Cincinnati through the 2025 season and contribute $44-48M toward a new stadium, according to Anne Michaud of THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. The team will occupy the new facility by August 1, 2000. The agreement "sets in motion" finding an architect, but doesn't set a location for the new facility. The deal calls for the team contributions to come from $20-24M in PSL revenue, $5M from the sale of naming rights, $11.7M in rent over nine years, and $4M in ticket surcharges. The 20-page memo of understanding also includes: a promise that the team will not enter into any contract to play elsewhere without permission from the county; the team can not apply to the NFL to relocate; all parking, concession and ticket revenue goes to the team; the county is responsible for maintenance and upkeep; the team must sell 80% of their luxury boxes for ten seasons and sell 50,000 season tickets by April 30, 1997, or "they can walk away from the deal." The county must sell $20M in PSLs by the April '97 date or the team can get out of the deal. The Bengals have the exclusive right to bring in a pro soccer team for the first ten years of the agreement (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 9/11).
Astros Owner Drayton McLane says he will decide by the end of the week whether to put his team up for sale, but has publicly asked to first meet with Houston Mayor Bob Lanier to discuss his situation, according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McLane has said if he cannot strike a stadium deal in Houston, he will resume negotiations with VA Baseball Inc., who last year offered a reported $160M for the Astros. Meanwhile, Houston Property Rights Association President Barry Klein, a local opponent of publicly subsidized stadiums, said he will not legally challenge a November 5 ballpark referendum approved two weeks ago. Klein is, however, organizing a political action committee to oppose the referendum (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/11). In D.C., Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST reports the Astros and Harris County officials are "inching closer" to a stadium funding plan that would keep the team in Houston. Negotiations continue to focus on McLane's contribution to the project and which party would be responsible for cost overruns. Astros Senior VP/Business Operations Bob McClaren: "Hopefully, we can get an understanding in the next few days" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/11). Noting Houston's civic and political leaders have "started to get together," ESPN's Peter Gammons said "things look very good" for the Astros and Harris County to come to a stadium deal possibly "as early as this week" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 9/10). VA BASEBALL NEWS: The POST's Maske reports that VA Baseball "plans to abandon" its effort to secure a MLB franchise for the Northern VA/Washington area if it is not awarded a team by the end of '97. Maske also cites sources within VA Baseball who note the group has made "renewed inquiries" about the status of the Pirates and Expos (WASHINGTON POST, 9/11). But VA Baseball Exec VP Mike Scanlon told THE DAILY the Post story "needed clarification" in that the organization has made "no determinations" about its post-'97 future and that "no decisions and no deadlines will be made without talking with Major League Baseball first." Scanlon added the group's "long-term strategy" is to get a team, "one way or the other" (THE DAILY).
ESPN's Peter Gammons, on the A's cutting ticket and parking prices to lure fans back to the Oakland Coliseum: "League officials said that when the Coliseum forced the A's to open their season in Las Vegas [during renovation at the Coliseum for the Raiders], it was a violation of their lease, and the A's are now free to move anywhere they want, anytime -- to Sacramento, when they build a ballpark" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/10)....The Cavaliers are taking advantage of hosting the '97 NBA All-Star Game along with being the only pro franchise in town this fall by offering a variety of new ticket plans and "inducements." Cavs VP/Sales & Marketing Jim Kahler: "With football being gone, we have a window of opportunity for three seasons. We want to get people who invested their money with the Browns" (CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 9/15 issue)....The financially troubled CFL Ottawa Rough Riders will finish the season as the franchise announced they have met its goal of 40,000 tickets sold for its final four home games. It also raised C$260,000 in corporate sponsorships, C$110,000 more than a minimum amount needed to stay in business (TORONTO SUN, 9/10)....Nashville columnist David Climer, on Dick Evans' departure from Gaylord Entertainment to become CEO at Huizenga Holdings: "[Evans] was MVP for Nashville's emerging sports marketplace. ... [His] departure ... is like Michael Jordan signing with the Knicks for 10 kazillion and leaving Chicago" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/8).
NationsBank's $9B acquisition of Boatmen's Bancshares Inc. could have an effect on the Blues, Kiel Center, Rams and Cardinals, according to Josh Gotthelf of the ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Boatmen's, which contributed an estimated $2.9M into the Blues and Kiel Center in '95, is one of the "Big Four" members of the Kiel Center Partners, holding about a 12% stake in the arena and the club. The other members are Anheuser-Busch, Emerson Electric and Southwestern Bell and together, the four control almost 50% of the group, while 15 other member companies hold remaining shares. This past spring, Boatmen's signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with the Cardinals to remain a major sponsor of the team. The agreement includes signage, luxury boxes, group ticket packages, scoreboard advertising, radio and TV broadcast sponsorship and the right to place ATM's throughout Busch Stadium. Boatmen's is also a "gold level" sponsor with the Rams and the bank is in the second year of a five-year deal in which it pays "well into six figures" for a large signage package at the TWA Dome, commercials on the stadium scoreboard, a luxury suite and the right to run promotions during the game. Further, the bank is a member of Civic Progress, a civic group that has guaranteed the Rams revenue from at least 85% of luxury suites and club seats. NationsBank Senior VP Jim Nash noted the bank's role in the Kiel Partners "won't be known" until the Boatmen's deal is consummated. However, he said the bank plans to honor prior Boatmen's prior commitments to the Cardinals and Rams (ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/9). FEELING THE BLUES? Calling this a "make-or-break" season for Blues President Jack Quinn and GM/Head Coach Mike Keenan, Tom Wheatley of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH examines how the departure of Wayne Gretzky and trade rumors involving Brett Hull have effected ticket renewal rates. According to Blues VP/Sales Bruce Affleck, last year the club sold about 14,000 season tickets and 90% have been renewed for '96-97, compared to 92% the year before and 94-95% in previous years (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/11).